This is the fifth chapter of my Community Manager Diary, and it’s almost about delving with burnout during the COVID-19 lockdown. If you haven’t read the previous chapters of this series, here is a link to the very first article of it.
A hard day’s night
Sometimes it is hard to deal with the stress. In the events and conferences “world”, we are usually under a lot of pressure, trying to deal with objectives, revenue goals, tight budgets and super tight deadlines. I know for sure that this is not a job for everyone!
From the outside people usually see the nice part of it, like the networking opportunities, travelling, hanging out with friends and colleagues. But, trust me, if anything goes wrong, even the slightest thing, the resonance can be overwhelming!
It’s like being a boiler filled with hot water and no valve to release the steam. Yet, if you do this job well and with passion, you’ll love it! Until something so unexpected like a world viral infection comes in to change the rules of the game. What happens then?
Dear Lockdown diary
Burnouts, over-pressure, and health problems related to strong stress are well known in the events industry. But what happens when even your escape routes are locked out due to quarantine? The pressure grows exponentially.
I guess we all know at least a colleague or a friend that was so burnout that s/he had to ask for some days off to recharge the batteries. Even I did. I’m lucky enough to have survived a couple of these situations, a few years ago. Expectations were so high that the stress level was beyond any imagination.
I soon realized how things that I was used to giving for granted, like bad sleep habits and bad nutrition had to be abolished. It was a matter of taking in all the energies I could, like a deep breath. But I also had my emergency valves to release all the stress. Just like most, a bit of sport, socialization, a drink with friends. Nothing special, I thought, but still effective.
Then came the COVID-19 and the lockdown. At a certain stage, I feared that my health would be affected because of it. How could I cope with the stress of organizing all the activities I am in charge of at Codemotion while totally shifting to the online-only paradigm, without the chance to take a break whatsoever.
Like I said before, I, like many of you, share my flat with my wife and a kid. Time to work was no longer a right. It soon became a personal space I had to bargain first with my kid and then with my wife, who works from home as well. So, the pressure kept rising.
In the end, I think I was lucky enough to have survived past stressful situations. Having learnt from them – and from mistakes – allowed me to face the situation with a more conscientious attitude. Now that I’m older and more experienced, I can immediately identify the bad signals of stress much better than before. So I can prevent them. I’m also super lucky because I have my partner and my family that act as a firewall.
But what about all those people who do not have enough experience or an escape valve at all?
From stress to burnout and backwards
Dealing with stress is serious stuff. It takes more than a relaxing walk or a short daily break to cope with it. And it’s also always difficult to detect the signs of burnout. Luckily, there are better ways to deal with stress and burnout nowadays. Several talks on the web and many books dig into this. Here’s a bunch I have found useful:
- Recognising Burnout by Andrew Hutchings
- Push Pause by Rachael O’Meara
- Or this one from our last Codemotion at Madrid: Perfectionism, Impostor Syndrome and Anxiety by Jo Franchetti
You won’t find the ultimate solution, but you will probably find some relief watching some of these videos if you find yourself in a situation like this. Moreover, other the past years – and during the lockdown in particular – most tech companies have found a way to deal with it and HR departments are more aware prepared to deal with employees that suffer severe stress. I can say this not only based on my experience at Codemotion, but also by having discussed it with quite a few developers in our community.
It seems that the IT industry remains the most innovative one even during the Coronavirus emergency. Kudos for the IT industry!
However, my recommendation is to find some professional help if you can. Even now that we cannot go out, try to find a spot in your place to disconnect. The world won’t crash if you spend 30 minutes watching the infinite nothing or practising yoga. Find a hobby, read a book and turn off your mobile.
Routines are good, but can also take us down to mental paths that are difficult to abandon after a while. Apparently, repetitive tasks are one of the sources of a burnout, so try to make your routines more dynamic and relaxed. And do not use lunchtime as your only chance to take a mental break.
Do rest to your eyes every once in a while, stand up – and if you work in a stand-up position – take a walk now that it’s possible to go out. Decide what your working hours are and stick to them instead of extending them beyond (while I write this down I am aware I still tend to work extra hours). Find your own pace and you’ll feel better and more secure with your job.
You’re not the impostor
Another thing that can be exacerbated in times like these is the impostor syndrome. Again, when expectations are high, we tend to see ourselves as not prepared or not capable of achieving success.
For instance, in the community world, when we grow our community or make more people attend our events we tend to measure success over achievements while we should rather look at our own successful events or campaigns as achievements (or objectives) per se, that we have reached as a result of our efforts.
Usually, when the impostor syndrome hits me I tend to do 2 things – or at least one of these two. First, I go to my LinkedIn profile and read my whole experience and the recommendations made by former colleagues or friends. The other thing that I do is a retrospective exercise, which consists of thinking about what I have learnt over the last years and how many people I’ve met, and remembering some stories.
This simple flashback exercise, for instance, works pretty well for me as it helps me see that what I have accomplished so far is way more than what I thought I’d capable of 5 years ago.
Find your own way to avoid burnout
I know that not everyone will feel better. or relieved just by watching a talk nor by reading about my experience – although I do hope to be helpful to someone. One thing that I know for sure is that every one of us has a unique way of dealing with personal issues, including stress, burnout and insecurity. Just as long as it works for you, stick to it. But if it doesn’t, you should not refrain from asking for help, first from your colleagues and supervisors and from a doctor, if the symptoms became overwhelming.
We all are humans and we all fail at times. Embrace failure (it’s sound like a slogan but it works, trust me!), make it a part of your possible scenarios and not as a black hole. Soon, you’ll start to see things differently, and it will make you enjoy your successes in a more satisfying way.
Check out Chapter 6 of Francisco’s diary at this link!